Bayou – Unfiltered

Crossing borders.

Bayou – Unfiltered
Menna Shanab

Lyrical messages of love come in all shapes and sizes, spanning genres, slipping into different forms, central to countless albums and songs, but when it comes to matters of the heart, nothing does it quite like R&B. With its rich cadences and soulful tempos, the genre has always been the perfect canvas for artists seeking to paint out their deepest emotions – it’s a perennial favourite for those with who wear their hearts on their sleeves. 

Velvety vocals, heartfelt lyrics and sensual rhythms, R&B has been the soundtrack to countless romantic encounters. No one knows more about this than Egyptian singer Bayou (Instagram), certified lover boy and sweet-talking crooner: “I live an R&B lifestyle,” he says with a smirk. “I also experienced love and emotion in an Egyptian context back home.” Swimming in tender lyrics and soul-stirring vocals, navigating between wildly different worlds, Bayou has all the ingredients to make that timeless R&B sound we all love, one that still feels right at home in this age of hyper-globalisation.

He speaks its universal language— talking in codes underpinned by love, intimacy, desire and affection. Much like Drake’s candid lyrical narratives, Bayou also takes his listeners behind the scenes – a sneak peek into his emotional landscape. There’s this candidness. He’s not spinning tales of fiction or fantasy. Bayou’s lyrics are a reflection of his reality, there’s no fabrication, they’re genuine expressions of his feelings. “As a child, I was always so hyper, so when a feeling would hit me, it would hit me really hard. If it was anger, I couldn’t keep it in. If it was love, I had to sing,” he says, revealing the intensity with which he experiences and channels emotions into his music. A release. “In middle school, I’d be writing love songs for girls. It was almost like I wasn’t writing it for them, I was writing it for me. To get it out of me. I’m like what am I gonna do with all this love?”

He took this whirlwind of feelings and poured it into his music, turning what was inside out and into melodies and lyrics that hit home for anyone who listens, crafting a novel yet familiar iteration of R&B. With robust backbeats, syncopated rhythms, and often dominant bass lines, R&B exudes a groove that’s hard to resist. Bayou taps into that with effortless finesse, infusing it with Middle Eastern motifs to fit his unique cultural experience. But R&B is no stranger to change. As a genre, it has evolved over the decades, incorporating elements of funk, soul, Hip-Hop and pop, shifting from jazz to Hip-Hop, becoming more synth-heavy, dancey, futuristic, melding decades’ worth of sounds together. 

Bayou, who has navigated multiple cultures throughout his life, embodies this evolution. His personal exploration of R&B showcases how the genre’s universal language of love and intimacy can be adapted to reflect a diversity of cultural influences, while remaining true to its soul. Born in Saudi Arabia, raised in Dubai, with roots in Egypt and now based in the US, Bayou has been crossing borders his whole life and he intends to do the same thing with his music. 

From writing love ballads to girls in Middle School, to touring the world with his music, love remains the central theme of Bayou’s sonic adventures. Weaving heartfelt moments with sounds from back home, he is moulding a distinct musical identity with bold experimentation and a vision that truly transcends traditional boundaries and genres. But, he has a sweet spot for R&B. “I love the way you can get lost in it. R&B artists create music that becomes your world. You listen to it and you’re in their world,” he muses. “It has that soul to it. It’s very emotional. Subject matter-wise, if you love in English and experience love in English, then R&B draws you in more, naturally. So I think even as an Arab kid, since I was English-speaking, it hit home with me because this is how I experienced love,” he reflects.

A true third culture kid, Bayou represents a generation of younger Arabs who are blurring the boundaries of culture to make music that still feels like home. As he explains it: “There’s three nodes to my music. There’s R&B. There’s the Egyptian pop side of it and there’s the identity part, me as the third culture kid. Clearly I’m an Arab man, living in the West, Egyptian passport. There’s two characters. It’s the east meeting the west. It’s my life.”

Navigating the fusion of different cultural sounds, Bayou approaches the challenge with precision. It’s a delicate dance, channelling this third culture kid experience, while trying to not veer into clichés or tropes, especially when it comes to fusing Middle Eastern motifs with western sounds. “When you’re trying to mix cultures together, you walk a really thin line. You can be cringe for both sides. I work with MENA-based producers who are about the culture, living in the region. So, they always keep the vibe in check. I try my best to stay in touch and understand both sides and the current state of the culture.” 

This cultural interplay is also reflected in Bayou’s deep fascination with the power of the voice as an instrument that can convey a vast array of emotions across different cultures. His artistic expression is influenced by this fascination, exploring the voice’s capability to echo the human experience in music. This exploration, rooted in his affinity for R&B, indie, and the “moody” soundtracks of his formative years, mirrors the wider emotional spectrum that today’s youth express through various music genres, from the aggressive pulse of drill music to the introspective depths of emo. “Because this is what life feels like,” he explains. “So, growing up it was always about gravitating towards the extremes.”

Initially on a path to professional football, Bayou’s career took an unexpected turn due to a torn ACL, leading him to trek down the music path. With the same intensity and dedication he applied to sports, Bayou now invests his efforts into honing his musical talents. He openly admits, “I didn’t always have a nice voice. I just enjoyed singing,” It was never about stardom or global reach for him. “Every artist, it doesn’t matter if they want to give it to the world or make it for themselves, they want to make something that they can be proud of eventually. Most people’s artistic goal is to make something they feel is worthy,” he says.

One ACL down, and many serendipitous sessions in the studio later, music eventually crept its way in and became a powerful tool for Bayou. “Through music, I’ve become closer to myself. It is introspective. I learned how to communicate in a language that made sense to me.” He not only refined his artistic voice but also uncovered a deeper sense of self and identity, oh and he also made a string of hits that went global, earning the love of fans both in the East and West. His breakout moment came in 2019 with the release of ‘Moonlight,’ immediately catapulting him into the spotlight. Bayou’s discography includes standout tracks like ‘Dodi and Diana,’ as well as ‘Egyptian Wifey’ and ‘Casablanca.’ 

And collaboration, for Bayou, is more than just the merging of musical styles; it’s about the mutual exchange of ideas and experiences. He seeks out collaborators who reflect a piece of himself, aiming for a synergy that transcends the sum of its parts. “I need to see myself in them. And for them to see themselves in me. If I see something in them that is better than me and they see something in me that is better than them, then it’s a true mutual exchange of knowledge to build something greater than us, greater than you and me. That’s always what I look for in a collaboration. It doesn’t matter how big or small, it’s about what they can bring to the table in the session,” he says.


This ethos of connection isn’t confined to the studio. It extends to his interactions with fans, whose dedication completes this circle of creative communion. “I’ve had many beautiful experiences. I’ve had multiple shows in the US and Europe where fans would make the trek from other cities, states, and countries to come and see me. That’s so beautiful.” Bayou’s words go beyond simple thanks; they acknowledge a mutual journey with his fans, with his live performances creating a bond that surpasses geographical and cultural boundaries, uniting everyone involved.

Discover more of the region’s music through our dedicated portal.